A total of 10 Clipper yachts crossed the Round the World Yacht Race startline in Liverpool yesterday 17/9/07

Durban 2010 and Beyond was first across the line at the start of the Clipper 07-08 Round the World Yacht Race in Liverpool which started yesterday afternoon.

As the cannon fired to signal the start of this 35,000-mile race across the world’s oceans, tens of thousands of visitors lined the banks of the Mersey to cheer the ten yachts on their way. Durban 2010 and Beyond was closely followed across the line by the home favourite, Liverpool 08 with Hull & Humber in third place.

On board are teams of non-professional sailors drawn from all walks of life, whose ages range from 18 to 71. Those who are competing on the whole circumnavigation will join an elite group of people who have raced a yacht around the world.

Just before they left the dockside yesterday skippers and crew bid final farewells to their families and friends who had come to see them off from Liverpool’s historic Albert Dock. The fleet will return there in ten months as part of the city’s European Capital of Culture 2008 celebrations. Before the start of the race at 1500 BST the fleet, led by the Tall Ship Mercedes, sailed in formation past Liverpool’s iconic landmarks, the Three Graces.

In testing conditions, with south-westerly winds gusting up to 42 knots on the start line, defending champions westernaustralia2011.com were in the middle of the pack. They are sure to face some stiff competition on their way round the world. Already positions had changed as the yachts rounded the first mark, with Hull & Humber moving up to overtake Liverpool 08.

This first race is 610 nautical miles and will finish in La Rochelle, where the fleet is due to arrive on Wednesday 19 September. Their visit coincides with the Grand Pavois boat show, one of the largest floating shows in the world. They will set off from La Rochelle on Sunday 23 September for their first ocean passage, racing across the Atlantic to Salvador da Bahia in Brazil.

Each of the ten boats taking part will act as a floating billboard around the world for its city sponsor. The international line up competing in Clipper 07-08 includes Liverpool 08, Durban 2010 and Beyond, Nova Scotia, westernaustralia2011.com, Hull & Humber, Uniquely Singapore, Qingdao, Glasgow: Scotland with style Clipper, Jamaica and New York.

With 27 nationalities represented amongst the 400 race crew, and 13 different nations sailing on Uniquely Singapore alone, Clipper 07-08 will be a truly global event. Up to 17 crew members from varying backgrounds sail on each yacht at any one time and they all put their everyday lives on hold for up to ten months to take part in the Clipper Race.

The crews have spent the last months preparing for the race ahead and prior to signing up around 40 percent had no previous sailing experience. Each one of them has completed comprehensive Clipper Training overseen by Clipper Chairman and legendary solo sailor, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston.

Speaking ahead of the start of Clipper 07-08, Sir Robin said, “There is something special about the people that sign up to take part in the Clipper Race. What unites the crew who will set sail this Sunday is their desire to experience something outside the limitations of their everyday lives. A great adventure lies ahead for every single one of them. They will return to Liverpool’s Albert Dock in ten months time as accomplished sailors with memories they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.”